What caputulation? Obama has advocated for cuts to social security.
- Has Obama been an advocate for cuts and reform of social security all
along? Jane Hamsher of Fire Dog Lake says yes, and documents what our
collective campaign amnesia has filtered out from memory. - Gary
It's amazing when you vote for the lesser of the evils, that you actually
get evil, as in, you get what you thought you were voting agasint. It's it
amazing that Partyline Dems will fight Romney over this, and yet defend
Obama on it? - Scott
Can We Please Stop Pretending Obama is "Capitulating" on Social Security?
By: Jane Hamsher Wednesday December 19, 2012
Everywhere you look, the media narrative is that President Obama is
capitulating to Republicans by agreeing to cuts in Social Security
And I have to ask, where is this collective political amnesia coming from?
Obama has made a deliberate and concerted effort to cut Social Security
benefits since the time he took office. FDL reported on February 12, 2009
that the White House was meeting behind closed doors to consider ways to
cut Social Security benefits, and that the framework they were using was
the Diamond-Orszag plan, which was co-authored by OMB Director Peter
Orszag when he was at the Brookings Institute.
The birth of the now-ubiquitous catfood meme came on February 18, 2009
with this FDL headline:
Hedge Fund Billionaire Pete Peterson Key Speaker At Obama Fiscal
Responsibility Summit, Will Tell Us All Why Little Old Ladies Must
Eat Cat Food
As I wrote in August of 2010, Petersons keynote spot was the worst kept
secret in town; I knew about it because I had been on a conference call
with about 40 representatives of various DC interest groups, many of whom
had received written notice from the White House that Peterson was
scheduled to headline the event. But nobody wanted to go on the record for
fear of jeopardizing their relationship with the administration in its
After FDL broke the news, Peterson was disinvited from the summit. Both
he and the White House denied everything, but Robert Kuttner subsequently
confirmed in the Washington Post that Peterson had, in fact, been
scheduled as the keynote speaker that day.
The administration backed off its immediate plans for reforming Social
Security. The New York Times reported that they were running into
opposition from his partys left who are vehement in opposing any
reductions in scheduled benefits for future retirees. But NYT columnist
David Brooks reported that shortly after the summit, four senior members
of the administration called him to say that Obama is extremely
committed to entitlement reform and is plotting politically feasible ways
to reduce Social Security.
Undeterred, the White House began telling journalists off the record that
they were interested in establishing an independent commission (outside
the congressional committee structure) to look at creating a specific
In January of 2010, a bill sponsored by committed Social Security slashers
Judd Gregg and Kent Conrad which would have created an official commission
to make recommendations about the nations deficit was defeated by the
Senate on a bipartisan vote 22 Democrats and 24 Republicans voted no.
After the Senate defeat, on February 18, President Obama issued an
executive order creating what subsequently became known as the Catfood
Unlike Bill Clintons Danforth Commission, which ended in deadlock, Obama
set this commission up in such a way that it was stacked with deficit
hawks who largely agreed on what needed to be done: 12 of the 18 members
were to be appointed by Senate and House leaders in each party, and 6
would be appointed by the President. This virtually guaranteed that Social
Security privatization fetishist Paul Ryan would be on the commission, as
would Gregg and Conrad.
Among the Presidents six appointments:
Chairman Erskine Bowles, described by Business Week as corporate
Americas friend in the White House. Bowles had negotiated the deal
between Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton to create private social
security accounts where taxpayers get some choice as to how to
invest their contributions. The deal fell through when the Monica
Lewinsky episode jumped into the headlines.
As Bowles Republican Co-Chair, the President appointed loose cannon
Alan Simpson, the former rich kid GOP Senator from Wyoming once
famously said that those who were complaining that Social Security
needed protection were people who live in gated communities and drive
their Lexus to the Perkins restaurant to get the AARP discount.
Alice Rivlin was appointed by Obama to be chief wonk of the Catfood
Commission, a Brookings Institute fellow who had been funded by Pete
Peterson and a strong supporter of raising the retirement age to 70
resulting in a 20% benefit cut to Social Security recipients.
David M. Cote, the Republican CEO of defense contractor Honeywell
The composition of the Commission was conveniently stacked with 14 of the
18 members committed deficit hawks looking to start balancing the federal
budget on the backs of old people.
And who supplied the staff to the commission? Why, Pete Peterson.
Are we to believe that the President was blissfully ignorant of the
agendas of the people he appointed to this commission, created with the
goal of bypassing Congressional process?
With the exception of a few public dog and pony shows, the Commission
conducted its deliberations in secret. But on June 16 of 2010, Alex
Lawson of Social Security Works blew a hole in that secrecy on the front
page of FDL when he caught Alan Simpson on live streaming video as he was
exiting a meeting of the Catfood Commission. In real time, Alex got Alan
Simpson to say what everyone in the room was thinking but wouldnt say
publicly. Simpson told Alex that the commission was really working on
Were trying to take care of the lesser people in society and do that
in a way without getting into all the flash words you love dig up,
like cutting Social Security, which is bullshit. Were not cutting
anything, were trying to make it solvent.
The Catfood Commission ultimately failed it is mission, due in no small
part to the work of people like Alex, Nancy Altman and Eric Kingson of
Social Security Works who have consistently been out there informing and
uniting interest groups and educating the public to the fact that, yes,
the White House has an agenda of cutting Social Security benefits.
I dont know why Obama wants to cut Social Security benefits. I do know
that Obama has been honest about it from the start. In January of 2009,
even before he took office, he told the Washington Post that he believed
Social Security was a broken system and that entitlement reform was
something he wanted to achieve during his tenure in office:
Obama said that he has made clear to his advisers that some of the
difficult choicesparticularly in regards to entitlement programs like
Social Security and Medicare should be made on his watch. Weve
kicked this can down the road and now we are at the end of the road,
Perhaps Obama wants to do what Bill Clinton couldnt do. Its clear the
oligarch class has decided that this is what must happen, and that in
order to be considered a serious person, this is what a President must
do. Perhaps Obama simply wants to be considered a serious person by
those in the ruling class.
But its clear that he did not arrive at the decision to reform Social
Security and cut benefits because he is a poor negotiator, or because of
Republican arm twisting. It defies all logic and reason to look at his
actions over the years and think that the President is now capitulating
on Social Security.
The President has been very forthcoming about the fact that cutting Social
Security benefits is something he wants to do. When he said during the
debate that he didnt differ from Mitt Romney on entitlement reform, he
meant it. Its time for people to remove the rose-colored glasses and
stop projecting their own feelings on to the man. Its time to take him
at his word.